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Martin Greenough: City and state settle lawsuit while new path shapes up

Posted by on February 28th, 2017 at 1:05 pm

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The new bike path being built where Martin Greenough was hit and killed while riding in December 2015 is being built as I type this. While the path nears completion, so too does the lawsuit filed by his family last April.

Greenough’s family named the City, State and the man who was driving drunk while intoxicated with marijuana prior to hitting him in their $3.6 million lawsuit. Last week The Oregonian reported that they’ve accepted a settlement with the City and State for $23,000. Here’s more from The O:

That’s far less than the $3.6 million that relatives of Martin Lee Greenough sought, but they’re pleased because they believe the lawsuit prompted the state to finally fast-track construction of a bike lane along the stretch after years of delay, their lawyer said.

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I rolled over to the location yesterday to see how the new path was shaping up. A tractor was working on the site and seemed to be leveling out the first layer of gravel and dirt that will be the foundation for the coming pavement. Headed eastbound, the path will transition from the on-street bike lane just east of where eastbound NE 42nd Avenue traffic merges onto Lombard. The path then becomes separated from motorized traffic via a guard-rail and continues under the overpass. It then transitions back onto the bike lane about 100 feet east of the overpass.

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The new path begins just beyond these signs. (ODOT crews need a lesson in safe work zone management.)

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West of the 42nd Ave overpass.

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East of the 42nd Ave overpass.

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Keep in mind that there’s still a gap in the westbound direction. ODOT says there’s simply not enough room to add one and they’re not willing to narrow or change the existing two-lane roadway. We’ll see if there tune changes after another person is hit and injured or killed in that gap.

The Oregonian reports that the City of Portland is paying $3,000 of the settlement while the State is paying $20,000. The State owns and manages this section of Lombard, but the family felt the City of Portland also shared responsibility because their official bike map recommends this route. As we first reported, Greenough was new to town and was using the map to find his way home when the collision occurred.

If this obvious, well-documented, and dangerous bike lane gap was closed with a path like this prior to December 2015, Greenough would very likely still be alive today.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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53 Comments
  • David Feldman February 28, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Good–this will give ODOT/PDOT/any agency that wants to copy this a nice template for fixing the same choke point in other locations.

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  • redhippie February 28, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    Nice to see safety upgrades. Too bad it took a death to achieve it. Any word on the bike fatality this morning?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 28, 2017 at 1:27 pm

      I’m not yet aware of any fatality this morning redhippie. Portland Police haven’t said anything about it.

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      • Redhippie February 28, 2017 at 10:59 pm

        My partner was riding by the coliseum on broadway around 8:30 and saw the aftermath. Looked like a car with a right hook and a west bound cyclist.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. February 28, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    ODOT says…they’re not willing to narrow or change the existing two-lane roadway

    ODOT would rather people die using their facilities than inconvenience drivers.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty February 28, 2017 at 1:24 pm

      Of course they would. If that were not the case, we would have no rural 2-lane highways, which kill far more people than this location ever will, and which could be made much safer by lowering the speed limit to 35 MPH.

      ODOT may want to kill cyclists, but they really have it in for drivers.

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      • Dan A February 28, 2017 at 2:17 pm

        Maybe it’s their solution to congestion.

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    • wsbob February 28, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      “…ODOT would rather people die using their facilities than inconvenience drivers.” adam h

      I doubt very much that anyone working for ODOT, feels the way about people as you dismissively claim they do.

      All the cities in Oregon likely have many old road, street, and highway designs that are less than optimum for safe use by people biking, walking, and so on, where motor vehicles also are used. It’s going to take lots of time, and lots of money from people paying taxes in Oregon, to gradually correct all of the road situations that are dangerous for vulnerable road users…if correcting ‘all’ of them is even realistically possible.

      Because of Martin Greenough’s death there, this particular bike lane merge to main lane became kind of a flashpoint…which likely helped to ODOT to have the support it needed to prioritize fixing this location, over the many others likely on the transportation dept’s list.

      As for the strength of the case against the city and the state, apparently it wasn’t strong:

      “…The settlement comes as a judge dismissed the city as a defendant and the state was scheduled to seek dismissal, too. Given that the city had already prevailed, the family decided to reached a settlement, according to court papers filed by the Greenough family attorney, Erik Graeff. …” oregonian http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2017/02/dead_cyclists_family_filed_law.html

      I wish the Greenough family whatever consolation they may receive for their efforts, and the interest of people that are following the responses to this collision. I give them encouragement for having decide to purse a suit against the guy that got high on pot and decided to drive anyway, the intoxication possibly contributing significantly to the collision having occurred. Even though the guy likely doesn’t have any money. Maybe the suit will help some people realize they shouldn’t be high on pot when they’re driving.

      It worries me that many people that drive, may be naive about the effect of marijuana on the ability to drive safely. Just a few days ago, this subject came up in a conversation with some people I know. One of them that smokes pot, both for recreation and medicinally, volunteered that they recently drove shortly after having smoked some…and didn’t notice any impairment in their driving ability. Honestly hadn’t heard that the stuff can mess with your ability to drive safely.

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  • John Lascurettes February 28, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Greenough’s family named the City, State and the man who was driving drunk prior to hitting him in their $3.6 million lawsuit

    I seem to recall that the driver was high, not drunk. Still a DUII but a subtle difference. Stated in this BP article, it said the police cited him for driving under the influence of marijuana: https://bikeportland.org/2015/12/12/fatal-hit-and-run-on-north-lombard-at-ne-42nd-ave-170230

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  • maccoinnich February 28, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    “Keep in mind that there’s still a gap in the westbound direction. ODOT says there’s simply not enough room to add one and they’re not willing to narrow or change the existing two-lane roadway.”

    Does the railroad ROW really extend beyond the structural support for the bridge above, adjacent to the tracks?

    https://goo.gl/maps/hjWdhcmzhGo

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    • MaxD February 28, 2017 at 2:45 pm

      Great question! It looks like there is plenty of room at the bridge and to the east to add a trail with minimal retaining/grading, although the guardrail extends quite a ways which would add length and expense. To the west, it looks like the ODOT and RR properties converge but there appears to be enough space. I would guess that the railroad would require a fence is the path is built. I can’t find the actual property lines with just a cursory search, but it looks like there is plenty of space, it would just 3-5 times the cost.

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    • David Hampsten February 28, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      The railroad has a 100 foot ROW under the bridge: https://www.portlandmaps.com/api/detail.cfm?detail_type=assessor&file_type=pdf&file_id=1n1e13ad&format=file&api_key=7D700138A0EA40349E799EA216BF82F9. Chances are that ODOT has already expanded the roadway as much towards the RR as they dare. There are two sets of tracks – the center line is midway between them, then 50 feet each way, or about 40 feet from the outer track edge.

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      • MaxD March 1, 2017 at 10:00 am

        good to know, I will have to measure this on Google earth

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  • eawrist February 28, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Fantastic work ODOT. Need to take the opportunity to say this when I can. Now, if there were a functional length of this highway that had a 2-way physically separated MUP, I would actually use it.

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  • One February 28, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    I don’t want to hijack this thread, but I need to ask: does anyone know how we can get A & G Auto to stop parking their cars in the bike lane every single day? A & G Auto shop is at 5317 NE Lombard. Every day I have to ride around the cars that fill up the bike lane in front of their shop. I have called the owners a dozen times and have never gotten a hold of them. I’ve called ODOT at many different numbers, and have not gotten a hold of anyone who can help. PBOT says that they can’t HELP because it’s not a Portland Road. Portland police say that they cannot ticket or tow because it is an ODOT Road

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    • BB February 28, 2017 at 3:49 pm

      Do you own a u lock?

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      • Buzz March 1, 2017 at 7:50 am

        Or a valve stem remover?

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    • paikiala February 28, 2017 at 4:02 pm

      you called 823-SAFE and requested parking enforcement at a specific time of day/day of the week?

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. February 28, 2017 at 4:19 pm

        That hotline is a joke. I’ve left four separate messages about a streetlight being out and three months later it’s still broken. I’ve reported that damn boat parked on Clinton Street before the diverter fixed the problem twice and it never moved or was ticketed. (It’s still there, parked illegally, I just don’t care about it anymore). I’ve reported abandoned autos that never get towed. I’ve reported downed trees blocking the sidewalk and nothing has happened.

        PBOT is drowning in a maintenance backlog and they know it.

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      • paikiala March 1, 2017 at 9:08 am

        AH,

        Consider that there are more than one number to call for maintenance.
        As has been repeatedly posted here, the maintenance number is
        823-1700 for public rights of way.

        Street lights even have their own web page and number:
        https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/47271

        Trees are the responsibility of the owner of the property the tree is on, or the property fronts (private property and everything up to the curb is not PBOT’s responsibility). More information here:
        https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/319702

        Abandoned autos is a program that requires repeated citation before action is possible (and one move resets the clock), but they also have their own web page:
        https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/300466

        All found online in about 5 minutes.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. March 1, 2017 at 9:30 am

        Yes, I know. All these hotlines can be reached from the menu prompts of 823-SAFE.

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    • paikiala February 28, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      nothing here about jurisdictional exceptions:
      https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/369564

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      • One February 28, 2017 at 7:53 pm

        UPDATE: So in the past, i have called the business (at least 6 times),
        The Parking Enforcement hotline (several times), the Portland non emergency number,
        the North East precinct (And I’ve gone in person.) I’ve spoken to several people at PBOT and ODOT and the Portland Police Bureau.

        PBOT sends me to ODOT,
        ODOT says that it is PPB responsibility,
        and PPB sends me to PBOT.

        I’m guessing someone reading this for one of these agencies and can help with this.

        I wish the owner would just stop parking the cars that they are waiting to work on in the bike lane. They often stay there overnight. There were two parked there on my way home and I called the business and asked if I could talk to someone about not letting cara park there. I was told by someone laughing that I would be placed on a brief hold and they never came back.

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    • Christopher of Portland February 28, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      I reported that on the PDX Reporter app probably about 2 years ago and, like all of my PDX Reports, nothing happened. I don’t know what to recommend that will help, but I do know what to not waste your time trying.

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      • GlowBoy March 1, 2017 at 7:57 am

        Huh. I’ve reported situations four times on the app, and got replies all four times.

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    • paikiala February 28, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      Oregon State Police contacts:
      https://www.oregon.gov/osp/Pages/contact_us.aspx

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      • Dan A March 1, 2017 at 9:02 am

        So instead of PBOT –> ODOT –> PPB, it’s PBOT –> OSP? I wonder who OSP will send you to.

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    • Doug Klotz March 1, 2017 at 9:18 am

      It would help if there were any signs indicating it’s a bike lane. Yes, there is a “no parking” sign about 150′ west of there, but none east of there. Would ODOT put bike stencils in the lane, say every 200′? Or post signs that said “No Parking -Bike Lane”, rather than just “no parking”? At least then you could say they should know it’s a bike lane.

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      • John Lascurettes March 1, 2017 at 12:21 pm

        The 8″ white stripe (as opposed to a 4″ fog or shoulder line) indicates it as a bike or special designation lane. That said, this is knowledge locked away in my brain, and when I’ve gone looking for a definitive definition or statue around this I cannot find it. Still, there is a functional and legal difference between a narrow white stripe and a wide white stripe.

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    • Jessica Horning March 1, 2017 at 9:51 am

      Hi One,

      One of ODOT’s Maintenance staff is going to go out and have a face to face conversation with the business owner about the parking issue. Also, PPB definitely can and does enforce traffic violations on ODOT facilities, so I encourage you to keep calling their non-emergency line to request enforcement.

      For maintenance and other issues on ODOT facilities, you can call 1-888-Ask-ODOT or email Ask.ODOT@odot.state.or.us and we are required to get back to you within 5 days.

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      • rick March 2, 2017 at 9:27 am

        THANKS !

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  • rick February 28, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    The new path should be named in remembrance of Martin.

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    • GlowBoy March 1, 2017 at 8:07 am

      I agree. I’ve long said that Oregon should follow South Dakota’s (!) lead in erecting small memorials to all victims of traffic violence. I’ll add that in cases like this where a design failure leading to the death has been corrected, where appropriate would should name the fix in honor the victim. When it has cost someone their life for us to have nice things (as is too often the case), let’s remember them.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty March 1, 2017 at 10:11 am

        I’ve heard this can be traumatic to first responders who might have dealt with a particularly painful or difficult situation.

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  • B. Carfree February 28, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    I hope they have designed it in a way that deals with what look like some obvious drainage issues. For some reason, I doubt it.

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  • Christopher of Portland February 28, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    I used to drive from north Portland to east of I-205 for work. I often took Lombard/Portland Highway because the alternatives were worse. I think the entire section between 11th and 60th could become one lane each way without real issues. The most “backed up” I ever saw it was when there was a crash in the middle of the road, and that was like a normal day on any other road. The extra lane only makes it easier to drive 20 over the limit and weave through traffic just to get stopped at the light at MLK with everyone else. Imagine proper bike paths of some kind and one of those center turn lane thingies instead.

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  • 9watts February 28, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    I’ve mentioned this before, but every time Martin Greenough’s death is mentioned here I have to think of Steve Fritz’s death, and the vast difference in how quickly and effectively the problem in the latter’s case was solved. The sums that were awarded/ settlement amounts accepted are also crazy far apart. Of course in both cases it took a death, but all these divergences speaks volumes (Hello, Kitty’s statistics notwithstanding).

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 1, 2017 at 10:16 am

      Yes — they were different situations with different histories, and had different outcomes.

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  • GlowBoy March 1, 2017 at 8:03 am

    I’m glad to see that this is getting fixed, and I’m certainly glad Mr. Greenough’s family is satisfied with that outcome. This will be a big improvement.

    That said, a $23,000 settlement is a much smaller cost to ODOT than the fix itself. This still doesn’t financially incentivize ODOT to be more proactive* in fixing trouble spots before someone gets killed. It’s only marginally more expensive for them to wait.

    * I use the word proactive in this context, but even fixing these problems before someone gets killed is still reactive. Almost every ODOT and PBOT facility failure that kills a cyclist is a spot where the community had already been demanding action.

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    • wsbob March 1, 2017 at 9:26 am

      “…This still doesn’t financially incentivize ODOT to be more proactive* in fixing trouble spots before someone gets killed. It’s only marginally more expensive for them to wait. …” glowboy

      Incentivize ‘the people of this state’ to be more proactive; etc. It’s only marginally more expensive ‘for us’, to wait to fix trouble spots…is what you’re saying, boils down to.

      A list of all the trouble spots…road design situations that pose safety problems for vulnerable road users, would be good to look at, before simply assuming they are slow in being fixed because the state’s transportation dept is unwisely trying to save the people’s money by putting the repairs off. I’m guessing an inventory of such spots would be a very long list.

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  • Doug Klotz March 1, 2017 at 8:42 am

    I say that ODOT is being disingenuous in claiming there’s no room for a bike path on the north side of Lombard. While Portlandmaps doesn’t show the demarcation between UPRR ROW and ODOT ROW, the 100′ quoted above leaves room for the path on the north side. And, for a quarter mile east and west of the overpass, there is a path behind the guard rail, held up in places by a retaining wall. In fact, it looks like one could walk along this path right under the overpass, walking behind the bridge “bent”. As Dave mentioned, with the addition of more retaining wall, a bike path could indeed be built on the north side of Lombard, without interfering with RR operations, and probably not even in the RR ROW. The only explanation I could see, that UPRR plans to add another track in the space between the two bridge bents, is belied by the lack of RR ROW width further to the east, where the RR diverges from Lombard.
    It would just cost more.

    I’d like to hear ODOT (and/or UPRR) explain why this couldn’t be done.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 1, 2017 at 9:43 am

      What if UPRR doesn’t want to sell their ROW?

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    • David Hampsten March 1, 2017 at 8:49 pm

      Doug, the RR ROW between 37th and 41st is 80 feet; East of 37th and west of 41st it expands to 100 feet, for whatever reason.

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  • Doug Klotz March 1, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Looking east from the overpass (I hope this image works). Note the graveled area behind the guardrail. If this configuration were replicated clear under the overpass, and paved with asphalt, ODOT could make westbound travel on Lombard safe as well.

    https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=ccce2bc57e&view=fimg&th=15a8ac5846e91899&attid=0.1&disp=emb&realattid=ii_15a8ac5846e91899&attbid=ANGjdJ9JAh8lBA9D807sT_S0hsVhpBqj2BUXeu4A5tgb1oehVGGMQRDlAsi2MN2_L9koCBMnnWB1xa2Xa4_06S3Rm8pbgla3h65oGvcP4K_6K9a_7JJRxCdfy9epco4&sz=s0-l75&ats=1488386887927&rm=15a8ac5846e91899&zw

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty March 1, 2017 at 9:28 am

    If they have the right of way.

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  • Greg Spencer March 1, 2017 at 11:15 am

    This project reminds me of how this jerk landlord addressed security problem in a home a friend was renting. A burglar had broken in through a window — one of several on the house’s groundfloor — and the landlord “fixed” it by installing security bars over that individual broken window. A few months later, a burglar broke in through another ground-floor window. The remedy was — again — to bar up the window that had just been broken. The same thing happened a THIRD time and I believe that’s when my friend finally moved house.

    This project is the same thing — a bandaid for a systemic problem. There are an awful lot of designated bike routes around Portland where the adjacent motor traffic is going way too fast for safe cycling. Looking at the back story of the the death of Martin Greenough, I completely empathize with him. He was a newcomer here in Portland and when he chose to bike on Lombard, he probably did so because Lombard is designated as a bikeway there. He was tragically mis-led.

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    • David Hampsten March 1, 2017 at 8:55 pm

      I agree, and I would argue that PBOT needs to use the dashed red line on its bike maps on any street that has traffic volumes and speeds greater than what their facilities (bike lanes, sharrows) are really designed for. If they have a regular bike lane on a street that really ought to have a protected bike lane (and not a simple buffered one either), then the street ought to be indicated as dangerous for any user.

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  • PomPilot March 1, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    I may have missed it, but you stated that only the state and city settled. Does that mean that the suit against the driver is still active? I seem to recall from my business law classes (some 35 years ago), that if a co-defendant settled, the one(s) who were not willing to settle were still on the hook for the balance of the amount being sued for, or whatever the jury awarded. In this case, unless he has settled also, or the suit is dropped, the driver is still at risk of loosing up to $3million (less $23,000.00).

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  • Mark smith March 1, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    Come on, everyone knows that the price is one death per direction. Asking for a two for one deal with ODOT is not allowed under the current rules of engagement.

    By the way, love that highways are getting millions and it takes people to die to get a few thousand for a 100 foot pathway sure to fall apart in the first rain storm.

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  • rick March 2, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Adam H.
    That hotline is a joke. I’ve left four separate messages about a streetlight being out and three months later it’s still broken. I’ve reported that damn boat parked on Clinton Street before the diverter fixed the problem twice and it never moved or was ticketed. (It’s still there, parked illegally, I just don’t care about it anymore). I’ve reported abandoned autos that never get towed. I’ve reported downed trees blocking the sidewalk and nothing has happened.
    PBOT is drowning in a maintenance backlog and they know it.
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    Adam, does that boat on SE Clinton have outdated tags on the boat or the trailer?

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